Misinformation, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of Human Behavioral Genetics Research

By Kaplan, Jonathan | Law and Contemporary Problems, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Misinformation, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of Human Behavioral Genetics Research


Kaplan, Jonathan, Law and Contemporary Problems


I

INTRODUCTION

"Behavioral genetics" does not describe a single field with a single set of methodological tools, nor does it describe a single explanatory project. Rather, different researchers are interested in answering different questions about the relationship(s) between genes, behaviors, and development, and they use different methodologies to answer their questions. The same diversity holds for human behavioral genetics: different researchers are interested in different questions, and in attempting to answer those questions they use different approaches.

At the broadest level, one can distinguish between (1) research into the differences in behaviors between different individuals and (2) research into behaviors shared by (most) individuals. It is obvious that some traits vary between people. Different people tend to act differently--when, for example, someone is said to be shy, it follows that, in general, they act differently at parties than people who are said to be gregarious. It is equally obvious that some traits do not vary much between people--although different people may speak different languages, all normal human adults (unlike other animals) use some complex language and learn that language while growing up.

Researchers interested in the differences within a population will focus on the variation within that population. For example, within normal human populations, some people are taller than others, some people score higher on standardized intelligence tests than others, and some are more prone to violent behavior than others. Researchers interested in such differences attempt to discover how these differences are associated with the presence or absence of particular genes or environments. In other words, are particular genes associated with being more (rather than less) prone to violence? Do particular environments in which children grow up result in their being more (rather than less) likely to score highly on intelligence quotient (IQ) tests?

More generally, such research focuses on particular differences in the resources used in organismal development. Humans, for example, develop over time from a single fertilized egg to an adult capable of a variety of complex behaviors, behaviors that require a body consisting of an astonishingly complex organization of many different types of cells. The development of any complex organism requires a variety of resources. Some of these resources are genetic (the genetic material inherited from the parents), some are environmental (from the prenatal environment of the mother, to the provision of food, and so forth), and some are hard to classify (the complex subcellular systems that, in conjunction with genes, make proteins, etc.). The outcome of this development is a complex organism that differs from (and, of course, resembles) other organisms in the population in a variety of ways. The goal of research focused on differences is to find ways to associate different phenotypes with differences in how the organisms developed--whether different phenotypes had, for example, different genes or experienced different environments. (1) In these projects, the hope is that researchers will be able to explain how differences in available resources produce different outcomes.

More specifically, human behavioral genetics research that is focused on variation in human behavioral tendencies tries to associate different behavioral tendencies with genetic differences. It asks, for instance, if people who are more prone to violent behavior are also more likely to have certain genes, or if people who tend to score highly on standardized intelligence tests also share particular genetic traits.

On the other hand, researchers interested in behaviors that do not vary significantly within a population have other goals. In the study of behaviors shared by (most) humans, the purpose is to figure out how particular traits are produced in normal development.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Misinformation, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of Human Behavioral Genetics Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.